All in the family

SEASONAL PRODUCE Spade & Plow is filling their boxes with freshly harvested lettuce, hearty kale, chard and collard greens, carrots and other winter delights.Photo: Robert Eliason

As the days get cooler and the nights start earlier, thoughts drift to autumn flavors, like the indomitable pumpkin spice, nutmeg and cinnamon that perk up our coffees and desserts.

It’s not just the stuff we stir into our hot toddies that grab our attention during this time, but the cold weather vegetables that provide the perfect accoutrement to the mouth-watering roasted meat dinners that welcome us home on Thanksgiving.

Oh yes, the cabbages, cauliflower and root vegetables—packed full of the vitamins and minerals that keep us from getting sick during the fall and winter months, come into their own during the autumn season, and one local farm can deliver them right to your home or office.

Spade & Plow, a small, certified organic CSA (community supported agriculture) farm, grows on just 10 acres in the middle of South County.

Run by brothers Sam and Nick Thorp, along with their father, Mike Thorp, Spade & Plow in San Martin specializes in unique organic produce—grown, selected and packed to order.

“It is exciting for us because the CSA gives us freedom to grow unique varieties that our customers want,” said Sam, the younger Thorp brother. “There is an underserved need for local produce in this area.”

Customers can sign up online at spadeandplow.com and choose from a $20 small share to a $40 large share box.

Each box comes with seasonal, organic produce and a choice of add-ons including pasture-raised eggs from the Pasture Chick Ranch in Hollister and artisanal organic bread from 2nd Story Bakeshop in San Jose.

CSA boxes make delivery days feel like Christmas, and currently Spade & Plow is filling their boxes with freshly harvested lettuce, hearty kale, chard and collard greens, beets, cabbages, various types of cauliflower—including orange and purple ones—and carrots.

“Better varieties look better and taste better,” said Sam, who added that consumers, retailers and restaurants are all pushing for an increase in food quality that Spade & Plow aims to provide.

The farm has had its CSA for about six months, but they know what they like.

“We worked with other companies that have similar programs, but we weren’t satisfied with their quality and level of customer service,” said Sam, who handles the purchasing and marketing for the family firm. Nick takes care of post-harvest and delivery duties while Mike, who spent decades in the agriculture industry, manages the growing operation.

“We all have different experiences that allow us to specialize in each part of the business,” Sam said. “There are so many steps to farming, from seed to growing to customer service and delivery to marketing and following up with customers.”

It’s this hands-on service that makes Spade & Plow stand out among other CSAs.

“We do a customizable box program so customers have more options. And we deliver, which makes it more convenient for people,” he said. “When we first found out about this business model, we became really interested in it because it gave us the opportunity to work directly with our customers and most farmers don’t get to do that.”

You can also find Spade & Plow organic produce being served at area restaurants including The Grove in Hollister; Liquid Bread Gastropub in Campbell; and The Vegetarian House and Good Karma, both in San Jose.
“Just being able to have a farm or brand that can help promote agriculture and open space in Santa Clara County is a great opportunity,” said Sam. “We are building a stronger food infrastructure.”

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